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Raja Yoga

Raja yoga ("royal yoga", "royal union", also known as classical yoga and astanga yoga) is one of the six schools of dharmic Hindu philosophy. Its principal text is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the viewer's mind using a succession of steps, such as meditation (dhyana, dhyana) and contemplation (samadhi, samadhi). Its object is to further one's acquaintance with reality (viveka), achieve awakening (moksha) and eventually enlightenment, kaivalya.

Raja yoga was first described as an eightfold or eight-limbed (astanga, ashtanga) path in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and is part of the Samkhya tradition.

Raja yoga is concerned with the mind and its fluctuations. Humans have all sorts of addictions and obsessions and these preclude the attainment of tranquil abiding (meditation). Through restraint (yama) such as celibacy, abstaining from intoxicants, and careful attention to one's actions (niyama) of body, speech and mind, the human being becomes more fit to practice meditation. This yoke that one puts upon oneself (discipline) is another meaning of the word yoga.

Raja yoga is traditionally referred to as astanga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras begin with the statement yogas citta-vrtti -nirodha (1.2), "Yoga limits the oscillations of the mind". They go on to detail the ways in which mind can create false ideations, and advocate arduous, dedicated meditation on real objects or subjects. This process, it is said, leads to a state of quiet detachment, vairagya, in which there is mastery over the thirst (trsna, tanha ) of the senses.

Practices that serve to maintain for the individual the ability to access this state may be considered raja yoga practices. Thus raja yoga encompasses and differentiates itself from other forms of yoga by encouraging the mind to avoid the sort of absorption in obsessional practice (including some traditional practices) that can create false mental objects.

In this sense raja yoga is called the "king among yogas": all honest yogic practices are seen as tools in the quest to cleanse karma and obtain moksa, nirvana or kaivalya. Historically, schools of yoga that label themselves "raja" offer students a structure of yogic practices and a solid viewpoint on dharma.

Krsna describes the yogi as follows: "A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances be a yogi" (Bg. 6.46).

Raja yoga aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications. A raja yogi starts his sadhana with the mind as well as a certain minimum of asana and pranayama usually included as a preparation for the meditation and concentration. In samadhi pada it is stated that the word of Isvara is Om, the pranava. Through the sounding of the word and through reflection upon its meaning, the way is found.

In the jangama dhyana technique of raja yoga, the yogi concentrates the mind and sight between the eyebrows. According to Patanjali, this is one method of achieving the initial concentration necessary for the mind to go introverted in meditation. In deeper practice of the Jangama dhyana technique, the mind concentrated between the eyebrows begins to automatically lose all location and focus on the watching itself. Eventually, the meditator experiences only the consciousness of existence and achieves Self-realization. In his classic Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda describes the process in the following way:

When the mind has been trained to remain fixed on a certain internal or external location, there comes to it the power of flowing in an unbroken current, as it were, towards that point. This state is called dhyana. When one has so intensified the power of dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi.

Eight limbs of ashtanga yoga
The eight limbs of ashtanga yoga are:
  • Yama - code of conduct, self-restraint.
  • Niyama - religious observances, commitments to practice, such as study and devotion.
  • Asana - integration of mind and body through physical activity.
  • Pranayama - regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body.
  • Pratyahara - abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects.
  • Dharana - concentration, one-pointedness of mind.
  • Dhyana - meditation (quiet activity that leads to samadhi).
  • Samadhi - the quiet state of blissful awareness, superconscious(?) state. Attained when yogi constantly sees Paramatma in his (jivaatma) heart.
They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper four limbs, the lower ones-from yama to pranayama-being parallel to the lower limbs of hatha yoga, while the upper ones-from pratyahara to samadhi-being specific for the raja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the samyama.

Samadhi is of two kinds:
  • Savikalpa, samprajnata or sabija
  • Nirvikalpa, asamprajnata or nirbija.

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